World News

Opening door to refugees, Lithuania says finds few takers

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania, in contrast to wealthier countries of western and northern Europe, is throwing its doors open to refugees fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East, but is finding few takers.

“We are prepared to accept refugees immediately, but there are no refugees in Italy or Greece who agreed to resettle in Lithuania,” Rimantas Vaitkus, deputy chancellor of the Lithuanian government told Reuters on Monday.

Lithuania has agreed to settle 1,105 refugees in the next two years, mostly from Italy and Greece, according to European Commision proposals which foresaw relocation of a total of 160,000 people.

“It seems that refugees know about Sweden, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, which either have generous social security or have been actively attracting immigrants,” said Vaitkus.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries have fled to Italy and Greece. Most move on to destinations in wealthier parts of Europe, especially Germany.

Lithuania’s gross domestic product per capita was around three quarters of the EU average in 2014, the ninth lowest among the 28 members of the union.

Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Richard Balmforth